The most common mistake that organizations and individuals make on social media is too much promotion and too little listening. I call it “the bullhorn approach.”
Too many believe that social media is just another advertising and marketing channel where they can endlessly write about themselves and shamelessly promote their products and services. All they do is write about how great they are or how marvelous their services or products are.
There are some brands that try to get creative and promote their products or services by running contests or asking questions but at the end of the day they are also not getting true engagement.
The reason is simple. They choose not to listen. What I mean by listening is taking the time to understand what their prospects or customers really want. In order to do that they need to interact. Brands that treat social media like a bullhorn where they can just promote their content endlessly are missing an opportunity to connect with their prospects and customers or with a community of people who may genuinely be interested in their expertise or point of view.
Most organizations don’t take the time to read what others are writing and then respond with helpful suggestions. As a result, they miss an opportunity to truly connect with people and build meaningful relationships based on trust.
I have to admit, I was guilty of employing the bullhorn approach when I started using social media. I would write my latest blog post and then look for every channel; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, etc., where I could promote my latest post. I didn’t take the time to listen. I didn’t take the time to read through my twitter feeds or my LinkedIn groups. Truth is, I really didn’t care. I just wanted to promote my content as frequently as possible through as many channels as possible. Then I would sit back and look at my statistics and feel good about all the traffic I was driving to my blog.
Along the way I figured out that my approach was all wrong. Yes the traffic to my blog was going up week after week, but when I looked closely at my stats I realized that the number of repeat visitors was very low and the average views once they got there was low. People would click though, read my post and then go about their day. There was little engagement. Furthermore, my content was not retweeted or mentioned or shared. I didn’t know who was reading my content and I had no feedback to know if it was useful or not.
It was then that I decided to change my approach. I stopped focusing on promoting my content and started to listen. I started to set aside time throughout my day when I did nothing but read. I read the LinkedIn groups that I belong to. I set up keyword feeds in my Hootsuite account of various areas of interest. I also set up feeds for the people and blogs that I thought were interesting and were sharing valuable information. I reduced the number of blog posts I was creating every week and started spending more time building relationships with my community of interest. I answered questions when I felt like I had something of value to share, I retweeted content that I felt was valuable and interesting, I took the time to thank people whenever they shared my content or re-tweeted my tweets.
Sure my website traffic took a hit for a while. However, slowly but surely traffic started to rise again. Only this time, it was different. This time the number of repeat visitors was much higher. The amount of time spent on my blog also climbed. More importantly I started to build a community of followers. They give me feedback now when I write something. They share my content to their networks and their followers. They list me in their lists of experts and link from their blogs to mine. Finally after all this time and effort, I started to see some meaningful results. I started to get referrals for my consulting services and actually landed a couple of new clients because of the referrals.
All of this started to happen because I took the time to listen. I stopped worrying about promoting my content and started to concentrate on building relationships and providing value to my community. This is what social media is all about. Social media gives every person and every brand an opportunity to truly connect with people, build a level of trust and create meaningful relationships with them. Only then can one turn those people into advocates for your personal or company brand. Social media is not just another advertising channel.
The goal here is not to promote your brand to as many people as possible. The goal is to connect, truly connect with people on an individual basis and then allow those people to advocate and promote your brand to their network. The goal is to be aware and mindful of the five tenets of social media. Most people and brands don’t get that. Those that do have a huge advantage in today’s ultra connected economy.
Today I give the same advice to my clients. Before they start to write anything or start developing their content marketing strategy I teach them how to listen. I set up the tools for them and help them understand how by listening on a daily basis they will be able to create better more meaningful content. In addition, they will be able to understand their community of interest and find out where the opportunities might be to provide value through their content. It makes all the difference.
Updated and republished April 28, 2017.